How Do We Know The Bible Is Inspired?
The claim of inspiration is really quite outrageous. A visual that comes to mind is God dictating, and a 'scribe' writing down word for word what God intended to be revealed to the world through time. This image, while intriguing yet silly at the same time, is not exactly what happened. Make no mistake, the writers wrote what God wanted them to write:
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20-21
Inspiration involves two actors: God and man. This is not to say that the men were inspired, similar to the way Mozart wrote 'inspirational' music, but rather that God utilized men to produce an inspired product. The concept of 'inspiration' is described by J. I. Packer thusly:
"Scripture is not only man's word - the fruit of human thought, premeditation, and art - but also and equally God's word, spoken through man's lips or written with man's pen. In other words, Scripture has a double authorship, and man is only the secondary author; the primary author, through whose initiative, prompting, and enlightenment, and under whose superintendence each human writer did his work, is God the Holy Spirit." J. I Packer; "The Inspiration of the Bible"; The Origin Of The Bible; Philip Wesley Comfort editor (pg 30)
Some retort that the claim of inspiration can only be attributed to the Old Testament Scriptures, since they were the 'Scripture' of Jesus' time. But we must understand the attitude of the Apostles and the Early Church. Peter, in remarks referring to the letters of Paul, attribute to them an origin that is from God, and offers a warning in their misuse:
...just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 2 Peter 3:15b-16
The inspiration of the Scriptures is evident in several ways.
1) The Miraculous Design. As we learned earlier, the Bible is a very complex collection of writings. It was not written by one person, but over 40, from 3 different continents, in three languages! All of these writings were accomplished over a period of over 1500 years! When one considers the unity of purpose, the continuity of the content and the fulfilled prophecy (both described in more detail below), the Bible stands legions above any other so-called 'sacred text'. It cannot be considered the invention of one man, or of a conspiracy of men. The first writers had no idea what would be written later. The later writers had nothing to gain from making up any stories. The Bible's incredible preservation through the years, proven by the discovery of thousands and thousands of manuscripts and fragments, all displaying the virtual perfection of transmission, would be expected of any book that the Creator would provide for us to be the carrier of His message.
2) The Continuity Of The Content. The Bible focuses on one subject: The establishment of God's authority, and the redemption of man. This can be thought of as God's message to us, to bring us back together with Him. The Old Testament begins the drama and describes the 'fall' of man, and describes our need (but utter lack of ability to accomplish on our own) for redemption. The holiness of God is presented, which is contrasted to the utter failure of mankind to qualify for joining with God. The long history of mankind's failing struggle to make peace is proof that we need supernatural intervention for our redemption. The New Testament describes the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of a redeemer.
3) Fulfilled Prophecy. God has told us that fulfilled prophecy is one way that we will know something is from Him.
You may say to yourselves, 'How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken..." Deuteronomy 18:21-22a
The Bible itself is replete with evidence of confirmed prophecy (over 600!). Consider these two famous examples:
Another amazing example is the prophecy concerning the Jewish people:
4) A 'Super Natural" Message. The Bible is unique in its message, in addition to the content described above. In no means does its message benefit any man or institution, as one might expect from a man-made document (indeed, this is one acid test for the other so-called 'sacred texts'. With a universal 'religious' nature, a natural means of manipulation would be to tap into this nature, and purport to have an answer for the masses, especially one that the particular 'human' writer can fulfill, for a 'price'!) But the Bible is different! It does not describe how mankind can redeem itself, as does Buddhism or Naturalism, or many other 'religions'. The Bible is unique in the message that God is indeed looking for us - and has provided a means to reach him that we cannot achieve ourselves! There is nothing to be paid, or practiced, only a trust in Him and His grace is required! Again, this message is unique among all 'religions' that promise a 'peace' that can be earned upon this earth, by human means.
So is the Bible 'Infallible'? Is it 'perfect', inerrant, exactly the way that God intended it to be, even in our newest translations? Christian orthodoxy maintains that the Scriptures were inerrant in the original. What exactly does this mean?
Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Proverbs 30:5
Wayne Gruden, author of Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Biblical Doctrine, defines inerrancy thusly: The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. There are several key messages that need to be understood about inerrancy. 1) The Bible must be interpreted as it was intended. We should read allegory as allegory, statement of fact as statement of fact, description as description, etc etc. When we say that we take the Bible 'literally', we mean that we interpret what it says as it was intended to be interpreted. For example, when Jesus says "I am the vine and you are the branches", we do not interpret the Bible as saying that Christ has transformed Himself into a plant and expects us to as well! (While painfully obvious, that example is a good reminder to those who claim to 'woodenly' take Scripture literally, to the detriment on what was meant in the writing!) 2) Perspective of original authorship must be allowed. To claim that a portion of Matthew's gospel conflicts with say, Mark's gospel because they may have documented an instance in a manner that appears contradictory. We must remember that it is the intent of the passage that meant to be brought across. Most of the so-called 'errors' of the Bible can be attributed to improper interpretation, or of a mistaken (more on interpretation of the Bible later.) 3) Orthodoxy does not insist that the modern 'translations' are inerrant. Does this mean that they are 'wrong'? What it means is that the Bible is meant to be studied seriously, to determine the intent of the Creator is His originals. A cursory reading of the Bible is likely to lead to errant interpretation. When studying the Bible, with the intent of truly determining God's word and will, we must make a diligent effort of pursuit, and work to understand the intent, syntax, context, and history of the passages and translations (more on translations of the Bible later.)
Finally, regarding the inspiration and the Bible, we must remember God's edict to us to follow when considering the Bible, and His purpose of giving it to us:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-16
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